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Helsinki Train Station – Snøhetta wins competition

Laura von Puttkamer
Helsinki

The urban square at the historic railway station of the Finnish capital will get a rebrush. In short: Snøhetta convinced the jury with their design “Klyyga”. Read all about the project at Helsinki train station here.

KLYYGA, Helsinki Train Station, design by Snohetta, view of plaza. © Elielinaukion kehitys Oy

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Norwegian architecture and landscape architecture practice Snøhetta has won a competition to renovate the area west of Helsinki’s train station. Their winning design is called Klyyga, which means “crossing”. Snøhetta is aiming for a sustainable concept that integrates surrounding architecture with modern design. The revitalization of the area also aims to support green mobility and people-friendly structures.

Klyyga centres on the Eliel and Asema Square in Helsinki, a public space next to the city’s historic railway station. Currently, the square is somewhat neglected. Concrete structures and traffic dominate the square. Together with Finnish practices Davisson Tarkela Oy and WSP Snøhetta will redesign the square into a vibrant central hub.

The new square next to Helsinki’s train station will contribute to the city’s green mobility strategy. It will reconnect the surrounding urban fabric to the train station by providing a “porous new city block” that fosters a diverse array of indoor and outdoor activities.

Klyyga: The crossing at Helsinki Train Station

Klyyga is a Finnish word used in Helsinki slang to describe a crossing. At the Eliel and Asema Square two city grids meet. However, they are currently not very well connected. Therefore, Snøhetta is aiming for a system of crossings that reconnect city, landscape, and people. The result will be a dynamic, liveable square next to Helsinki’s train station, inviting social interaction, openness, and creativity.

Apart from redesigning the square, the architects also proposed a mixed-use building that will face the historical Vltava building. The building currently houses a restaurant. It will feature a hybrid timber structure and a granite façade to mirror the materials of the train station.

As a future-looking urban building block, Klyyga will adapt to its surrounding while also making the area west to Helsinki’s train station more porous. The new square and the multi-purpose building will invite countless new indoor and outdoor activities, resulting in a vibrant, popular square.

The winning proposal by Snøhetta includes also plans for renewable energies, environmental-friendly materials, and green mobility. The square will become more attractive for cyclists and pedestrians, for example. Moreover passive design will help to regulate temperature inside the building, which is intended as a flexible space for multiple uses.

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KLYYGA, Helsinki Train Station, design by Snøhetta, building view from north, © Elielinaukion kehitys Oy.

Helsinki Train Station: where old meets new

Snøhetta’s proposal is both contemporary and respectful of its historical surroundings. The planned building mirrors Helsinki’s train station and the famous Vltava building in terms of material and design.

The building’s hybrid timber structure will create a warm interior with generous daylight while blocking direct sunlight to prevent overheating. Vertical elements of granite and clear glass support passive temperature regulation and communicate with the train station’s façade.

According to Snøhetta’s proposal, the new building will be able to house offices, a hotel, cultural sites, shops, and meeting places. The architects have planned for green spaces on the new square. Their vision for an attractive cityscape includes opportunities for social interaction, safety, openness, and equality. This will ensure the new Klyyga square works well with future urban dynamics, too.

Helsinki’s urban strategy

Helsinki’s city strategy is updated every council term. Currently, the 2021-2025 vision is in place. It focuses on enabling growth and green mobility for the more than 630,000 inhabitants of the Finnish capital.

Helsinki is already known as one of the world’s smartest and greenest cities. It focuses on implementing the UN SDG, while also aiming to tackle persistent inequalities and the dangers of social isolation.

A transport revolution is underway in Helsinki. The capital intends to become a 15-minute-city where key services are just a short walk, cycle, or public transport journey away. Klyyga contributes to this vision by making the area around Helsinki’s train station more attractive and easier to access. This will incentivize more people to use green mobility options rather than taking the car.

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KLYYGA Helsinki Train Station, bird's eye view, Snøhetta, © Elielinaukion Entwicklung Oy

Creating a vibrant, exciting destination

To sum up, Snøhetta has proposed a public square revitalization in line with Helsinki’s urban strategy. It is inspired by the “cities for people” idea from nearby Scandinavian countries such as Denmark. This, in combination with a focus on green mobility and innovative architectural ideas has caused the jury to give the project to Snøhetta.

“With Klyyga, the Eliel and Asema square will clearly contribute to the city of Helsinki’s urban strategy. Revitalizing the area with new development, expanding the pedestrian areas with green mobility and urban programs, will make Eliel and Asema square a more vibrant, exciting destination as a place to go to and to stay, work or play in. Now, we are looking forward to the next steps of detailing the project, ensuring that this urban space becomes the hub we all want it to be for the vibrant city of Helsinki. “ – Jenny B. Osuldsen, partner and the lead architect from Snøhetta.

Also interesting: They simply call it “Under” – Snøhetta designed Europe’s First Underwater Restaurant at the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline. Find out more.

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